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The NDAA Debate: What It Means, and Why it Matters

by Amanda Fox-Rouch | Hunter College

F Posted in: News and Politics P Posted on: January 4, 2012
Barack Obama Image Courtesy of westernrifleshooters.wordpress.com

On the last day of 2011, President Obama signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act For Fiscal Year 2012 (NDAA).

This alone is hardly an unusual occurrence; the National Defense Authorization Act itself has been signed into law every year for nearly the past fifty. One of its main objectives is to allow the government to continue funding national security interests and the military for the next fiscal year.

This year’s bill, however, was different. One of the provisions included in the 2012 NDAA is one that allows for American citizens suspected of terrorism to be indefinitely detained in military custody without charge or trial. As Pfc. Bradley Manning begins the pre-trial hearing process after nearly 18 months of being held in military detention, the president has just signed into law a bill that will allow the military to treat American civilians in a similar fashion if they are suspected of conducting activities related to domestic terrorism.

The Obama administration had threatened to veto the bill as long as it contained the indefinite detention provision, but changed course shortly before the final version was voted on by Congress.

In a letter to the public released following the signing of the document, Obama explained why he signed the bill with the indefinite detention provision attached to it. He states that his signature on the bill is necessary to continue funding for military and national security interests. Of the indefinite detention provision, he says that the version of the bill he signed had been revised to eliminate any provisions that would threaten the freedom of American citizens.

Legal scholar Jonathan Turley purports that despite what Obama says in his statement, the revisions made to the bill were merely rhetorical in nature, and that it ultimately provides the military with “extraordinary powers” to detain American citizens without providing them with a fair trial. Despite what Obama has said on the topic, Turley says that the powers imparted to the military and the Obama administration by way of this bill are cause for concern.

This is amplified by the fact that American citizens who are being investigated for being suspected of terrorism cannot inform others about the investigation without facing prosecution as per provisions of the PATRIOT Act. Coupled with the NDAA, a citizen wrongly suspected of terrorist activities could now theoretically be held in military detention for months without trial, and be released only to be restricted from taking legal action against his captors.

The implications of this legislation reflect the idea that certain liberties and freedoms must be sacrificed in the name of protecting the country from further terrorist attacks — a notion that is widely disputed by various groups concerned with civil liberties.

The signing of this year’s NDAA has been decried in a statement released by the ACLU, which says that the bill “…violates international law because it is not limited to people captured in the context of an actual armed conflict as required by the laws of war.”

This, and the broader topic of how to preserve liberty while countering possible terrorist threats, will surely be a major question for the contenders of the 2012 election to handle. The discussion prompted by the signing of the NDAA touches upon the contentious issue of how the U.S. government is expected to respect the Bill of Rights while maintaining the country’s security by diffusing threats in a preventative manner.

One of the other provisions of the bill is said to make the closing of Guantanamo Bay more difficult, as it restricts the transfer of cleared detainees from the facility for resettlement and repatriation purposes.

Overall, the signing of the NDAA leaves us with the impression that the current president has shown few significant differences from the Bush administration in terms of post-9/11 national security policy. The PATRIOT Act was renewed by Obama earlier this year, the Guantanamo Bay detention center remains open, and now the recently-signed NDAA has extended the powers of the military to include the detainment of American citizens indefinitely without trial.

Amanda Fox-Rouch Amanda Fox-Rouch Amanda Fox-Rouch is currently a student pursuing an undergraduate Political Science degree at Hunter College in New York City. She is interested in the stories of those who are typically silenced by the selectivity of the mainstream media. Find her on Twitter @afoxrouch.

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  • Adam

    I actually suggested amending the NDAA in my article and have been saying that it could be used against OWS for the past 3 months. Seems the government has taken a step in the right direction. http://nextgenjournal.com/2011/10/recommendations-for-crushing-the-swelling-protests/

  • Krush

    Preach on brother…. OORAH for the real troops who speak pout about what is truly goin on…. and those who are ready to risk both their lives and carrers standing for the people that they share a country with as the military’s true purpose is ment.

  • Krush

    Its good to see someone who not only understands what exactly it is truly sayin but willing to suffer scrutiny to teach others the proper understanding of this bill……

  • Krush

    9/11 was an inside job!!!!!! infowars.com do your research

  • Ssn

    Nationwide NDAA 2012 Congressional Protest is Feb. 3rd. Spread the word!


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  • Ladyjenbe

    Having travelled extensively and lived in two other countries aside from the US, …once again, I must roll my eyes at the statement proclaiming, 

    America is still the best place in the WORLD to live!!!!!!!!!!!”Whatever floats your boat.  But I’ll stay where I am and keep my four weeks paid holiday per year as required by law, my universal health care, (never having to worry about accumulating a mountain of debt over an unexpected medical expense), earning a liveable wage, where even a minimum wage earner only needs to work ONE job to survive, having a welfare system that will protect me in hard times….I could keep going but you get the idea.  

    What is really sad is that Americans live in this illusion that tells them they are the “freest country in the world.”

    Do some research and you will find out what an utter load of crap that is.

  • Shawn

    Wow Ladyjenbe, spoken like a true Marxist. A couple more years and you’ll be a full blown communist, congratulations. I dare you to name this utopian country that you’re on here raving about; let us readers determine just how great it is. You think you’re “free”? Tell me then, who gets to determine just what a “liveable wage” is? You, or some powerful bureaucrat? You can’t even begin to understand a document like the U.S. Constitution. The pursuit to happiness is a foreign phrase to you because your pursuit to happiness is a “livable wage” determined not by you, but by someone else. You go and enjoy your utopian life. You’re nothing but a glorified slave.     

  • Ladyjenbe

     Marxist? Communist?  *face palm*  I nearly didn’t bother responding because of that comment.  However:

    First off, after reading my initial post I admit I was a bit harsh.  I get very emotional lately with regards to what’s going on over there.  For your information, I think I know a tad bit about the Constitution, having been born and raised there and having a proud Vietnam veteran father.  

    Never once did I say that a liveable wage is THE pursuit to happiness.  I was merely trying to suggest that life can be better outside the U.S….that it is not the only country that enjoys freedom.  The pursuit of happiness?  I will expand on my comment about the health care system, or lack thereof in the US and why the “America is the best place in the world to live” statement gets me a bit heated.

    You mention powerful bureaucrats?  Yes, of course they decide the wage.  Now, who gets to decide who lives and who dies?  Because one of my dearest friends has her fate sealed because her insurance company has cut her off for her cancer treatments.  Now, the only choice she and her husband have is to say goodbye to each other.  All because they can’t pay?  We are going to lose an amazing woman so yes, I get very angry when someone spouts off that America is the best place in the world to live….when they will let someone die because of inability to pay. 

    Please forgive the arrogance of my initial comment.  This has only just come into light for them so forgive me, I am still in a bit of shock over it, though it shouldn’t be a surprise.

    On a lighter note, maybe my bitterness comes from being born and raised in Illinois….you know….where our past two governors are now making the license plates.

    Since you ask, the “utopia” is Australia.  It isn’t perfect, nor is any country and it is certainly no utopia.  I just have a better quality of life than I had in the U.S.  It doesn’t mean everyone will.

    I will almost agree with your “glorified slave” statement…simply because, aren’t we all?

  • Oliverjennifer78

    Well hope none of us look suspicious cause there goes your ass we are definitely in trouble only god can help us Holocaust number 2

  • Janngregory2005

    its just too much power to the government, were following the mistakes of civilized nations of the past. THIS IS SERIOUS! THE GOVERNMENT IS TAKING LIBERTIES! THE PEOPLE ARE APATHETIC! DO SOMETHING!

  • Anonymous

    What means this martial array but to intimidate us into submission?
    Your chains have already been forged.

    2012 is the year off the people. Liberty is rising. The traitors will answer for their crimes.

    I withdraw my consent from this government.

    We the people will abolish this government.

    We the people will institute a new government.

    We will provide new guards for our Future Security.

    It is our Right and our Duty.

    This tyranny does not intimidate the American people, it angers us

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_74PS3NWOOTHZ2LWJAFSIP2UUVE jordan

    Shut up. How about you do YOUR research.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_74PS3NWOOTHZ2LWJAFSIP2UUVE jordan

    It doesn’t matter. If the government suspects you of being a terrorist, is that really enough to get rid of your rights and detained indefinately? Its not like they have to prove you are, only suspect. I’m all for terrorists being treated like the heartless animals they are, but this does nothing but undermine our efforts. Like I said before, suspicion should never be enough to be detained indefinately. You’re an American citizen. You are therefore innocent until proven guilty in a federal court as determined by a jury of your peers.

  • Ssadlerld

    Ever wondered why there has been little change with our new president? The president has little control. Congress has been the hold up here..this was the plan from the start. Republican members refuse to find any middle ground. Whats sad is how much damage they have caused in being stuborn idiots..we may only continue in this downward spiral now.

  • Ssadlerld

    Wow. That scares the crap out of me. Thru personal trageties I hafe found that our government is very crooked. We mean nothing as civilians. For them to have the kind of control your speakin of is terrifing. Even for the most innocent people u will be at their mercy. God help us all

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  • Abates4469

    This latest travesty to disgrace the administration mocks our constitution in the name of fighting terror.  Now they are fighting terror with terror, lawlessness with unfettered authority, and we all know what happens to those who fight fire with fire.

  • vincent wayne

    Guys , is not about the Security of this country but how is massively going against the constitutional rights and liberties of the people , even a “suspected terrorist” deserves a trial …what if they captured people that were innocence but didn’t have the chance to prove their innocence due to the absence of a trial??….personally I think the government could approach in better ways terrorism , and the fact of how this bill  gives too much power to the government and military.

  • EyesWideOpen

    Obviously when you say homeless you immediately think bums…but in reality, if you are an adult, forced to move in with family or something when you have lost your house….that is considered homeless.  I don’t know about you, but if I lost my apartment right now…I’d have to move into my folks place, and I’d have computer access…and I’d also consider myself homeless.

  • dr. J

    I really don’t care about all the occupies going on and would like to conduct business as usual here in America. On the other hand this little diddy can have pretty strong implications if it falls into the wrong hands.

  • Gary

    you should be very concerned with this act is the Marshall Law that allows for sending entire towns, city’s, States and or Territories and confiscation of properties, assets all. the closing down our elected government and replaced with a provisional picked regional governors. these were the the 20 or so Executive orders put in place by Obama starting 2 weeks after he took office. these were not sent to the senate or house.     

  • Gl3646

    there is so much to all this i believe you can not comprehend what is going on here.

  • Kevinsanchez789

    ya ya ya but who wrote the ndaa

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  • Citizen_Patriot

    The NDAA (2012) is a direct Federal assault on the Constitution of these United States and of our people and our liberties. 

    I am a veteran of the US Army and spent six years of my life protecting the people, the Constitution and our liberties so we could live our lives and persue our dreams in earnest.

    What our president signed fully contradicts what our founding fathers set out to do.

    I have read all comments and commentary here and have a bit to add to the mix.  What we are doing in our country now is repeating history.  The Patriot Act (step 1) combined with the NDAA (step 2) is now the American version of the pre-WWII German ‘Enabling Act’.  If you don’t believe me or think I’m a nut case, go do your own research.  After you’re done, you’ll eat a bottle of Tums you’ll be so angry.

    Those are the first two steps.

    ‘Step 3′ is to disarm the American people.  Plain and simple.  To qualify this statment simply refer to our presidents public track record in dealing with the 2nd Ammendment and his public statments and conversation sound bites captured while speaking with Sarah Brady.  “That’s not for now…That’s for later on…” (He was refering to supporting legistlature which would ban removable magazines for any weapon available to the general public.)

    So now you must think I’m totally paranoid…Here’s another log for the fire.  How about our presidents supporting role in “Operation Fast and Furious” (previously known by the Bush administration as “Operation Wide Receiver”).

    The short story is that the Justice department in conjunction with the BATF, DEA and the FBI, sanctioned, allowed and supported the sale of semi-automatic (military style) rifles to ‘straw’ purchasers who in turn allowed the mueling of weapons to the Mexican drug cartels.  This , as it seems now was to be an ‘Under the Radar’ attempt to justify statistical numbers that had been previously casually thrown around by our Madam Secretary of State.

    This would have all gone unnoticed had not a Non-Comisioned Officer of the US Customs Service been shot and killed on duty by one of the weapons the above mentioned Federal Organizations were in charge of monitoring and tracking.  BATF and FBI monitoring these purchases which were (by the way) protested by the southern border gun purveyors, were told to look the other way and to allow the weapons to ‘walk’.

    Then it comes out that our Secretary of State has all but signed the Nato arms Treaty which would effectively cause the removal of any and all ‘small arms’ (handguns) availability in the United States.  When and Why should we bow down to other foreign powers and become their subjects.

    The end of America is eminent unless we act now, in a non-violent way.  Arm yourselves for your own protection but do not resolve to violence until violence is brought to you.  If you sit and do nothing you will be no better than the evil that is being purported upon us today.

    “collin p.s.”, “betsy44″ and “Shawn”.  I fully understand your shock and horror faced with the truth.  Everything that is mentioned above can be verified if you so your due dilligence and research.

    All I’m waiting for now is the ‘Reichstadt’ to appear….

  • Citizen_Patriot

    Watching the US Network news is like watching ”The View”.  If you don’t believe they’re being sanctioned think again.

  • Citizen_Patriot

    *OMG*  I apologize for the spelling…that’s what I get for doing three things at once at work and this!

  • Mrent89

    Why dont you send everyone the LINK to the EXACT quote that states that “it is NOT subjected to U.S. citizens”?  You still haven’t done enough research to this day to figure out that Obama has a kenyan father. He went to school in Kenya as a younger boy, why don’t you do your reasearch instead of blindly making shit up? Don’t retaliate by asking ME to send you the LINK to anything. I won’t waste MY time. But a word of advice… stop kidding your self… kiddo.

  • Guest

    Hey, do you remember when Hitley rose to power? Doesn’t this give you the same vibe? The whole situation that we are in. I mean he clearly gained the peoples trust before he destroyed the jews. The look on your face when s**t hits the fan as a result of this bill? PRICELESS

  • Jackpmaloney

    “only individuals engaging in terrorist activities can be detained indefinitely… So why should we care about a homegrown terrorist losing their 4th,6th,8th Amendment rights?

    Read the NDAA again, Shawn.  You needn’t be “engaging” in terrorism, you only need to be suspected of supporting a terrorist organization.  For instance, if you visit al Jazeera online, and the adminstration decides al Jazeera is “supporting” terrorism, you could be whisked off to Gitmo without,warning,  benefit of counsel, charge or trial - and kept there indefinitely.

    That’s why you should care.

  • Jackpmaloney

    So even when Obama signs a bill allowing the military to arrest US citizens without charge and detain them without trial - a bill passed by the Democrat-controlled Senate and approved by 95 Democrat House members - somehow it’s the Republicans’ fault?  Awesome logic!

  • Patty scheider

    you just gave up all your freedom simply because maybe .0001%of bad guys are walking around… hmmm a dictator ship must not sound horrible to you

  • Bob

    When U.S. Marines are court marshalled  by our own government for supposedly *issing on a dead enemy, while  previously seeing  many of their fellow brothers heads, arms and legs blown off by  this enemy, please tell us all that this NDAA will not further deminish the rights of the people, and diminish the constitutional rights we thought we were serving to protect..

    All through history,  where any country *hits on it’s own gladeators, it’s not long after, that country will perish… just a fact of history to soon repeat itself.

    Try and have a good day..  OORAH to you also!

  • Bob

    In reading all the descriptions, comments and ramafactions of this NDAA, and how it could make the most innocent American, who may have a problem with their government and contacting their Congressman for help, could this also help one to be entered on the list of government decenters?

    Why? Although I have never noticed it before when contacting you Fed. representative, but know I see they want you to sign a form that also pin points you exactly.
    Not just name, address, phone number and the lie.. But a further bulls eye of your date of birth and now, YOUR SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER !

    Why does your government now want your age and social security number because you have a complaint, comment, or problem caused by them? 

    Any comments?

    Have a good one?

  • Anonymous

    He IS a Progressive/Marxist.  Come on, man.  Haven’t you done your research?

  • Anonymous

    You watch the liberal media and drink it up like KoolAid…and are completely clueless.

  • Anonymous

    Homeland Security has also begun monitoring web sites, purportedly looking for terroristic activity.  But having this discussion on this website could be construed as being seditionist – because we don’t agree with the NDAA that was signed…or because we disagree with Obama.  It won’t matter if it’s true or not – because we will simply disappear and no one will know what happened to us.

    FEMA camps?

  • Sean

    Even Nazis and the Japanese who attacked us received a right to a trial. Now we dont give that same right to American citizens suspected (not concvicted) of nothing more than homicidal activity.

  • Anonymous

    Carl levin (d-mich) and Jhon McCain (r- ariz) wrote the bill in secret. This comes from both sides of the fence.

  • Deacon_blues

    Amen! A sane voice at last!

  • Deacon_blues

    The trouble is, my friend, anyone can be suspected you of such a connection. This law does not require evidence or specific charges or even a trial! It is all driven by “suspicion” without any requirement of proof. On that basis, anyone can be detained indefinitely under suspicion of any one of the categories listed above. Once you’re detained under suspicion, you have no legal recourse. Any president could begin wholesale detention of political adversaries, claiming that they are under suspicion of being connected to one of several “Terrorist organizations,” or even to an unnamed organization, as long as it also is suspected of anti-american activities. And you tell me not to worry? Once the detention starts, it’s your word against the military; guess who will win that one?

  • Deacon_blues

    This is bad, make no mistake. John McCain, a former indefinite detainee himself, should know better than to co-auther a law like this! I think he is either senile or taking stupid pills, or both. Makes me so glad he wasn’t elected president–but now they’re both out to take away our rights!
    The only hope (short of leaving the USA) is that the Bills of Rights still trumps this evil law; but who’s going to challenge it? Let’s hope it’s effective and soon! And let’s hope that they don’t get indefinitely detained before they have time to file their challenge!

  • http://twitter.com/CatchTheFoxes Abbey Atwater

    Dear US Government,

    In the words of Beavis and Butthead…
    You suck.

  • Samantha

    That all sounds good. Where do you live?



  • Gravity_sucks

    40,000 Americans die from the flu each year–more than died from Islamic terrorist attacks on our soil SINCE OUR COUNTRY’S FOUNDING.  Perhaps it’s time we heeded this quote: The means of defense against foreign danger historically have become the instruments of tyranny at home.” — James Madison: US fourth president, 1751-1836

  • annon

    there will never be enough of us that give a damn until its to late. to meny of us are too comfterable to even care to look this stuff up and find out what is realing going on. we are all sheep waiting to be slaughterd and your an ideit to think otherwise.

  • Guest

    WTF. . . seriously? how could anybody say the NDAA or the PATRIOT act are “OK” ? This is a direct violation of our constitutional rights as U.S. citizens. This is very wrong. If the military can now hold us indefinatly without trial or indication of a charge then this is not the america I want or what america was founded upon and what it stands for. frankly this is the opposite of that, the opposite of constitutional, and the opposite of democracy. “AKA” communism. We the people of the united states of america can join together and use our second amendment right, which by the way was to allow the people to fight the government if they were to become unconstitutional. what the people want is to be given the unaliable rights they are intitled tounder the U.S. constitution.

    I may only be 18 years old and live in a very small town in Indiana but I like to think I know what I am talking about.

  • Cuselabor

    This is different than felons because everyone including you is losing thier right to a fair trial,  while felons lost their rights once they were convicted.  Yeah its far fetched that you will become a victim of ‘being called a terrorist’, however, detaining, interrogating and potentially torturing citizens indefinitely without trial is rediculous.  We have come 10 years without attack since 9.11.01 without these violations of our constitutional rights. 


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